<< Back

Where Ideas Start

Toronto has long been a city of thinkers, visionaries and leaders. Collectively, the brain brawn of the city’s artistic, scientific and corporate luminaries has resulted in a long list of life-changing and, indeed life-saving discoveries. Whether bringing the world light and medical hope or making the world a happier place with revolutionary entertainment, Canadians are changing the world, one discovery at a time.

Incandescent light bulb
Medical electrician Henry Woodward and hotelier Mathew Evans developed and patented an incandescent light bulb in 1874. They sold their patent to Thomas Edison five years later.

In 1921 after a series of experiments on pancreatic secretions, Frederick Banting, a young surgeon, and Charles Best, a recent University of Toronto physiology and biochemistry graduate, developed insulin as treatment for diabetes. Rather than seek a patent for their discovery, Banting and Best sold the rights to their formulation to the University of Toronto for $1 to ensure that insulin could be affordably manufactured for years to come.

Dr. Gordon Murray performed the first renal dialysis in North America in 1946 using the artificial kidney machine he had invented.

Canadian John Naismith invented the sport of basketball in 1891. Later, on November 1, 1946, the first National Basketball Association (NBA) game was played in Toronto. The Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens.

IMAX System
The IMAX system has its roots in EXPO '67 in Montreal, where multi-screen films were the hit of the fair. A small group of Toronto filmmakers and entrepreneurs designed a new system using a single, powerful projector, rather than the cumbersome multiple projectors used at that time. The result: the IMAX motion picture projection system, which revolutionized giant-screen cinema. As of 2009, there are more than 400 IMAX theatres in over 40 countries around the world.

Comic-book icon Superman was the brain child of Canadian-born artist Joe Shuster, who dreamed up the character in 1932 with the help of American writer Jerry Siegel. Sold to DC Comics in 1938, Superman soon epitomized the superhero, paving the way for other legendary action figures.

In 1930, nutritional research by Drs. Alan Brown, Fred Tisdall and Theo Drake leads to the development of a new quick-to-prepare, low cost cereal that later becomes famous the world over as Pablum. This nutrient-fortified cereal was the first of its kind and significantly reduced infant death from malnutrition—the major cause of infant mortality at the turn of the 20th century.

Worldwide time zones
In 1879, Sir Sanford Fleming proposed a worldwide system of times zones at the Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Scientific Knowledge in Toronto. After once spending an uncomfortable night in a train station due to scheduling problems, it occurred to him to have standardized time zones around the globe. By 1929, most major countries had adopted hourly time zones.

Autodesk® Maya® – 3D animation and visual effects software
The Academy Award® -winning Autodesk® Maya® software application is used for 3D animation, 3D modeling, simulation and visual effects. The software has been used in many popular computer-animated films including Ice Age, Monsters vs. Aliens and James Cameron’s Avatar.

Blood forming stem cells
Toronto-based researchers Drs Ernest McCulloch and James Till set the stage for modern stem cell research when they first discovered blood forming stem cells in bone marrow (enabling bone marrow transplants in 1961). Their legacy is a long line of further stem-cell research that is poised to save millions of lives.

World’s first lung transplant
Dr. Joel Cooper performed the world's first successful single-lung transplant operation in 1983 at Toronto General Hospital.

Cancer stem cells
Dr. John E. Dick, PhD, FRSC is credited with first identifying cancer stem cells in certain types of human leukemia in 1997. His revolutionary findings highlighted the importance of understanding that not all cancer cells are the same and thus spawned a new direction in cancer research

World’s first heart-valve transplant
In what has been deemed “a forerunner of today’s biological valve replacement,” Dr. Gordon Murray performed the world’s first successful heart-valve transplant in 1955 using the main aortic valve from a donor.

Super rice
University of Toronto Professor, Dr. Herbert Kronzucker simulates tropical rice-growing conditions in his lab in order to develop a strain of rice that will be resistant to damage from the salt seeping into the water in Asia's most fertile rice-growing regions.

3-D image-guided radiation therapy
In 2005 radiation oncologists at Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre began treating prostate cancer patients using a 3-D image-guided radiation therapy device - the first trial of its kind in the world. The non-surgical technique allowed oncologists to deliver precise external beam radiation therapy.

Anti-gravity suit
The world’s first anti-gravity flight suit or G-suits created under the name “The Franks Flying Suit” were developed by a team led by Wilbur R. Franks at the University of Toronto’s Banting and Best Medical Institute in 1941. All G-suits worn by air force pilots as well as astronauts and cosmonauts around the world are based on Franks’ original designs.

Conceived and created by a team of researchers at Ryerson University, the chair translates the beats and pitch of a piece of music into corresponding physical actions and sensations – rocking motions, vibrations, even blasts of cool air to the face – allowing deaf people to feel the emotional tenor of the music.

Deep Lake Water Cooling (DLWC)
The world’s largest lake-source cooling system provides buildings in Toronto’s downtown core with an alternative to conventional air conditioning. Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling (DLWC) system harnesses the coldness of the lake water to chill building cooling systems. DLWC reduces electricity use by up to 90% compared with conventional air conditioning and saves more than 61 MW of electricity annually – the equivalent power demand of 6,800 homes.

Business Improvement Areas
A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial and/or industrial property owners and business tenants who work together to create attractive, competitive and viable business areas. The concept originated in Toronto over 40 years ago and has been emulated in communities throughout Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States. There are currently 71 BIAs in Toronto.

Retractable stadium roof
Rogers Centre, formerly known as SkyDome, is famous the world over for having the world’s first fully retractable roof. Originally opened in 1989, it is home to Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, and the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. The stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2015 Pan American Games as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.